In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a life without plastic. We find plastic everywhere, from the chairs we sit in, to the cars we drive, and the bottle that holds our favorite soda. However, for the vast majority of human existence, our ancestors relied on natural materials like stone, wood, metals, leather, and clay as the building blocks of everything.
It was only thanks to the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s that chemistry started to take off and eventually led to Alexander Parkes patenting the very first plastic material, called Parkesine, which he unveiled at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The first fully synthetic thermoset, (what we would consider a modern-day plastic), wasn’t created until the early 1900s, when Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland introduced his creation, Bakelite. Both World War I and World War II spurred development in the chemistry sector, and by the 1950s, plastic had come into its own.
That leads us to today, where plastic keeps us safe on the road, helps deliver astronauts to the International Space Station, and saves lives in hospitals every single day!